On the 25th October 2023, the partners and Advisory Board members in the DUST project came together for our first consortium meeting, held online. The meeting was an opportunity to discuss everything that has been achieved in the first nine months of DUST, and to look forward to future tasks and opportunities to collaborate. The consortium meeting was a valuable moment for all partners and led to many reflections on the positive work happening across the project to develop novel participatory instruments for proactive and strategic citizen engagement in sustainability transitions.
In the first half of the consortium meeting, partners looked back on the work that has been completed as part of the project. We explored the methodologies used through the project, in positioning it at the intersection of citizen participation, place-based approaches, just sustainability transitions, and deliberative governance. Overarching concepts and frameworks were discussed, both in terms of the different dimensions of the project and in terms of what still needs to be defined, to continue to position the project in the most productive way (Work Package 1). One key aspect that emerged is the need to understand and define the Least Engaged Communities (LECs), a complex yet crucial process to enable the project to recognise and platform the array of voices that need to be heard in sustainability transitions.
Diving into the ongoing work in the project, partners reported on their achievements in developing a STakeholder Engagement and Participation Index (STEP), a tool for measuring involvement in just transition policies and how to evaluate this through criteria defined across five dimensions (Work Package 2). Elsewhere in the project, work was conducted to identify and analyse place-based sustainability transition measures in case study regions, as well as to categorise participatory practices from the lens of “depth of participation”. This process has allowed for a number of initial insights to be obtained on the involvement of communities in participatory processes, reflecting on the arenas for engagement and factors that may impact levels of participation in policy formation (Work Package 3).
Throughout the consortium meeting, many discussions were held on the development of upcoming tasks in the project, and optimal plans of approach. Plans for guiding the implementation of Regional Future Literacy Labs (RFLLs) were presented, including looking at processes of monitoring and assessment to compare results produced during the RFLLs in four case study regions. Early explorations into the forms of communication and expression from LECs in case study regions were also explored, discussing how art can provide a basis to orient the implementation of RFLLs (Work Package 4).
In the afternoon, two parallel discussions were held diving deeper into ongoing topics in the project. Work exploring factors impacting the participation of LECs in deliberative governance processes was explored, with discussions revolving around the role of focus groups in the task, how to identify and define LECs and how to orient a focus on policies across case study regions (Work Package 3). In other discussions, the development of a community champion network was discussed, including how to find existing initiatives and representatives of LECs to make the network. Ideas of identifying stories, the role of such a network and how to connect this to policy debates were also touched on (Work Package 6).
A day of contemplation
All presentations and discussions held throughout the consortium meeting reflected on the constructive and careful processes of examining participatory processes in sustainability transitions performed in DUST. They are exemplary of the approach taken in all work packages, where partners strive to implement tasks in effective, co-creative and sensitive ways. The project is truly a shared and productive process, in which different expertise, experiences and perspectives come together to produce actionable learnings for the deployment of just transition policies in Europe. There is still much to be explored through the project and we look forward to the coming years, to explore and learn together. Stay up to date with everything going on in the project, including deep dives into our ongoing work, coming soon!